Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Government cuts the arts. Again.

We're losing ground as well as money. Across the board commercial arguments are replacing cultural arguments. 

Almost $37 million will be taken away from Australian galleries and museums. But $47 million will be given to commercial Hollywood/US film studios. Yes, that’s right $47 million to support the Thor and Alien franchises. Then there’s the removal of parallel import restrictions on books. Advocates say that the mass import of lower-royalty and royalty-free editions means cheaper books for buyers—but what about the cost to local writers and publishers? Read the Australian Society of Authors POV on this here.

Funding US blockbusters creates a few opportunities for local actors, small roles and extras mostly, some technical jobs, and service jobs like film catering. Hmm. 

These studios and production houses trumpet their commercial, market-orientated credentials ... so why not let commerce prevail? Leave these megabudget US productions to market forces, and use our precious PUBLIC arts dollars to support local CREATORS. Imagine what we might do, the INNOVATIONS we might come up with, if that $47 million were used to support the work of local writers, directors, designers, musicians, curators and artists!

I worry that in a society determined and shaped almost solely by matters economic we’ll end up knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.


Just when we were preparing a somewhat relieved post about the Turnbull Government returning (one third of) funds that the Abbott Government clawed away from the arts, and the Prime Minister's speech in praise of the arts at NIDA last week, comes the news of the decimation of 10 youth theatres, the abolition of the Australian Book Council, and yet more kneecapping of Screen Australia.

I don't get it.

In 2007 there were 21 youth arts organisations funded through the Australia Council. In 2012 there were 13. In 2015 there are 3. 

Some of us 7s had our start in youth theatre, along with probably 90% of professional theatre practitioners. It provided crucial training ground, a step between high school / uni and the industry. It was a place to experiment free of critical judgment, to forge relationships (I still count Paul Capsis as one of my dearest friends, and an ongoing collaborator - we met at Shopfront as teenagers). But whether involvement in youth theatre leads to a career in the arts is not the point. Youth theatre provides sanctuary for kids who don't fit in, who have something to say, who are thinkers and dreamers. It allows kids to develop social skills, to discover who they are, to connect. It tells them they are valuable, and have something to contribute. It helps them navigate the world at what is perhaps the most vulnerable age of one's lifetime.

Politicians will argue there's no money left. Well, it seems there's plenty to hand over to Hollywood. But meanwhile, if there are any philanthropists out there who care about young people, please consider getting in touch with the theatre companies listed below and helping them survive.

Riverland Youth Theatre (SA)
Shopfront (NSW)*
Southern Edge Arts (WA)
Western Edge Arts (VIC)

Shopfront wishes to clarify the funding support provided by ArtsNSW as it is unclear within the SMH article.

Shopfront has been fortunate to receive an increase in confirmed multiyear funding from ArtsNSW. Without the ongoing support of our State funding body our situation would be much worse.

The funding issues currently being experienced are related to the flow on effects of the May 2015 federal budget and projected losses in project funding from ArtsNSW as a result.

ArtsNSW have always provided exceptional support to Shopfront and to the Youth Arts sector in NSW.



Thanks Hillary. You are speaking and spreading the truth as you see it and experience it. This is a really sad state of affairs. What can any of us do to help. I think an action needs to occur. I never depended on yourh theatre for my employment but I work with students frequently. A lot came through the system of kind benefactors . This seems to be under threat again. Maeliosa

Carolyn said...

These statistics you mention are truly depressing Hilary. It distresses me to think how little value our politicians & government place on the arts in general, and in particular, artistic opportunities for young people. So many budget cuts of late to the Arts and screen sectors.

What does this say about the cultural barometer of our country? How can the talent of so many Australian creative practitioners not inspire our decision makers to make better, more considered decisions for future generations??

I feel so lucky I was able to participate in youth initiatives such as Tall Stories and the Bondi Music Wave when I was younger. Initiatives such as these would never see the light of day in this current climate of economic rationalism! These experiences allowed me the opportunity to work with other young people in creative and collaborative ways and had a huge impact on my life, my interests and motivations as well as my way of understanding who I am in the world etc. As you have accurately pointed out, these experiences taught me that I was "valuable and have something to contribute." And I can see how for young writers, there must be such few opportunities to learn their craft and collaborate with others, particularly playwrights.

I have been to film school and worked in TV & film for many years, and am astonished at the decision to cut yet more funding from Screen Australia and divert funds towards big Hollywood productions This decision seems quite myopic, especially when Australian grass-roots filmmaking has demonstrated the high-level creative and artistic talent we have in this country. This needs to be fostered and young people are an important part of this equation.